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Chronic Illness

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“For almost 35 years, newswoman Meredith Vieira, 56, has talked about every topic of the day. Her husband’s struggle with multiple sclerosis (MS)” (Lifescript, 2013). “Until his symptoms worsened, in 1995, Vieira  coaxed her sick spouse  to tell family and friends that he had MS” (Lifescript, 2013). Since then, she has become an “advocate for MS research and awareness” (Meredith, 2013). Her husband is currently legally blind and has written “an autobiography called Blindsided: A Reluctant Memoir” (Lifescript 2012).

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most common neurological disorders that cause disability in young adults in the United States. According to the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), although some people with MS experience little disability during their lifetime, up to 60% of them are no longer fully ambulatory 20 years after onset, with major implications for patients. Multiple sclerosis occurs more often in some families than chance alone would dictate (WHO, 2012).

While the cause of the disease is unknown, researchers believe that it may be a progressive disease that happens when the body's immune system attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may vary, but disease always follows a slow progression into disability (Meredith, 2013). With no recognized conventional cure, it is usually associated with the loss of myelin from surface of nerves,characterised by inflamation. This process causes disruption to nerve transmission that can affect many bodily functions. It eventually leads to patches of nerve scarring, known as ‘sclerosis,’ which gave the multiple sclerosis its name (Adams, 2004).  

The hypothesis that at some time during their gestation or childhood multiple sclerosis patients suffered from inadequate levels of thyroid hormones appears to come short of Bradford Hill’s criteria. The evidence seems to suggest that iodine deficiency plays a role in etiology of multiple sclerosis but that it is indirect. That is, it seems more likely to exert its influence, at least in part, through dairy products from iodine deficient cows (Foster, 2006).

Multiple sclerosis may involve a vitamin D deficiency. The only Bradford Hill criterion that has not been met by this hypothesis is that of a specificity of association. However, this  criterion is not valid. Cow milk probably triggers at least two major autoimmune diseases, those being mellitus type 1 and multiple sclerosis, but lack of education or information to these patients seem to be the major reason why patients still do not  take precautionary measures to avoid milk which is a significant precursor ( Adams, 2004).

The course of multiple sclerosis can be greatly altered by personal dietary choice. As Goldberg and colleagues demonstrated, supplements of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium can reduce the number of exacerbations. Mount and Klenneral so clearly demonstrated that intravenous vitamin B1 and intramuscularly injected liver extract can reverse a lot of multiple sclerosis symptoms (Foster, 2006). Beyond this, “50 years of evidence from patients following the Swank diet, which is very low in saturated fats, shows that it can greatly prolong life and increase mobility in those who are willing to follow it. Sadly, there are no motivation placed to encourage such persons to take the initiative to change their lifestyle for their well being” (Swank, 1972).

Avoiding gluten also appears beneficial for some multiple sclerosis patients, as may be the use of desiccated thyroid drugs (Swank, 1972). It also appears likely that multiple sclerosis patients remain chronically short of the thyroid hormone triiodothyromine and that this abnormality reduces the ability to activate precursors that produce myelin forming protein (Foster, 2006). As a result, multiple sclerosis patients who are on highly inflammatory diet and eat foods to which they are allergic because of preference or financial constraints are unable to repair the associated myelin damage (Mann, 2013). The subsequent deterioration of the sheath prevents electrical impulses from travelling normally along nerve fibres, leading to a decline in function of the mind and body that is called multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is caused, in those who are on the pro-inflammatory diets, by excess of dopamine-derived oxidation products that prevent myelin repair (Swank, 1972). The ultimate cause of this dopamine imbalance is iodine (and thyroid hormone) deficiency that begins in the fetal or early childhood developmental stages (Foster, 2006). The value of measuring thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in blood to identify such hypothyroidism.

The multiple sclerosis three-step model  allows identification of a variety of strategies to prevent the disorder and reverse its symptoms. These include avoiding inflammatory foods and allergens, thyroid hormone supplementation,and addition of a variety of minerals, vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acid to a diet (Swank, 1972). There is a debate about whether the  use of artificial sweetener aspartame may cause a pseudo-multiple sclerosis. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society rejects this hypothesis (Foster, 2006).

In conclusion, factors that may act as restraining forces are lack of education, personal food preferences, financial constraints and difficulty in following through the plan of action. Patients may benefit from independence from such factors, from interventions that can be used and include providing relevant information to the patients living with the disease on a diet, from the causes, and how to manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis, to help prolong their lives.

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